88 YEEDICT ON INDIA
selected by the British Government as the next Viceroy of India,
For safety's sake, however, he denied the rumour. 'Nichols
refused it point-blank* he assured his readers. *He was too
rppalled by the complexity of the task.'1
This meeting was typical of many which I subsequently
addressed, for from the first moment it was evident that nobodj-
had any intention of listening. I still did not feel competent to
talk about India, and so I began to talk about England instead—
about the average Englishman and Englishwoman, whom I called
'Mr. and Mrs. Smith.5 What were they thinking ? How had they
changed ? What would be their attitude to world affairs after
the war ? I was reasonably qualified to answer these questions ;
they were of wide and obvious importance ; and they had a direct
application to the Indian problem.
After a few minutes it became impossible to continue. Screams,
shrieks and yells rent the air. * Question.. .question I* they
shouted, one after the other, till half the members of the audience
were standing up, while the other half were trying to pull them
down* In the meantime sheaves of papers containing written
questions were thrown on to the desk.
My carefully nursed temperature began to leap up inside, as
though somebody had plunged a thermometer into a cup of tea.
I was face to face with hatred—mass hatred. Here was the slogan
*Quit India' come to life. These were the men who went out in
the darkness and chalked things up on walls. Here, in spirit if not
in practice, was the vanguard of the ignoble army of saboteurs*
Here was Hindu nationalism naked and unadorned. And—to
use a vulgar phrase—it didn't strip well.
The Chairman tried to quell the riot. For another few minutes
I struggled on. It was useless- There was murder in those men's
eyes. Fee, fo, fum, they smelt the blood of an Englishman. It
was a startling revelation, to one who had come, like myself, with
the idea of an informal chat over a glass of beer.
' Why don't you get out and let us try the Japanese for a change?'
'Why don't you hang Churchill ?' "
*What is the difference between Britain and Germany ?*
Those were three questions of which I took note.
1 Bombay Sentinel^ May 5th, 1943.